What’s An Interior Fit Out and What Does An Interior Fit Out Contractor Do?

In many articles online, including our own, you’ll see the term Kent or London “office fit out contractor” or “interior fit out contractor”. In this article we will go into more depth about an interior fit out contractor’s role and responsibilities in an office refurbishment and why an interior fit out contractor is important to your business when it comes to your commercial refurbishment.

The Definition of Fit Out

Let’s start with the term fit out (sometimes written as “fit-out”). According to the Designing Building Wki a “fit-out of buildings” is defined as “a term used to describe the process of making interior spaces suitable for occupation. It is often used in relation to office developments, where the base construction is completed by the developer and the final fit out by the occupant. The occupant will generally be leasing space as a tenant from the developer/landlord.”

Another definition provided by the UK government Building Regulations 2010 Approved Document L2B which covers “Conservation of fuel and power in existing buildings other than dwellings” (PDF) defines a fit out as “work needed to complete the internal layout and servicing of the building shell to meet the specific needs of an incoming occupier. The building shell is the structural and non-structural envelope of a building provided as a primary stage (usually for a speculative developer) for a subsequent project to fit out with internal accommodation works.”

Interior Fit Out Stages

There are various stages involved in the fit out of a building including:

Shell and Core (the Outer Shell and Basic Core)

The idea of shell and core originated in the USA where developers would build office space and then fit them out according to what they thought the average tenant would require or want. However many tenants wanted to shape the interior of the building to meet their own needs and requirements which in many case would differ from the developer’s ideas. As a consequence it has become common practice for developers to leave the space, as is, for a landlord or tenant to create a working space that meets their particular needs.

The idea of Shell and Core was introduced in the UK by Rosehaugh/Stanhope, a major property developer in the City of London and the Docklands in the 1980s and 1990s through its high profile and ground breaking Broadgate development which was designed specifically at the time for the financial market.

The Designing Buildings wiki further explains “Rosehaugh/Stanhope did not supply ceiling tiles; carpet tiles etc, but allocated its tenants a rent-free period and an allowance for the landlord’s notional fitting out. This became known in lease arrangements as a Category A fit out allowance. Following the lead of Broadgate in the eighties, agents in the chartered surveying world accepted that rents were not affected by the principles of shell and core and it became widespread in the office commercial market.”

Typical Shell and Core Elements

Typically the shell and core refers to the main structural elements of a building i.e. the outer shell and core including walls and windows, leaving a range of construction and fit out work to be completed before the building is able to be occupied.

Elements usually include (although this may differ depending on the build and the developer/landlord):

  • the foundation and main structure
  • cladding
  • base plant
  • completed common areas such as receptions, lobbies, toilets
  • staircases
  • lifts
  • basements
  • parking lots and loading bays
  • external work and the building envelope including external walls, insulation, roofing and glazing.

Other things that may be part of the build are:

  • boundary walls
  • pavements
  • pathways
  • fencing.

The list above is fairly comprehensive but it’s important to note that there is no standard which states what must be included in a shell and core. The overall objective is to provide a base from which a landlord or tenant can shape the internal space through a Category A or Category B fit out.

What Comes After the Shell and Core Fit Out?

After shell and core, the next stage, usually referred to as a Category A (or Cat A) fit out, is carried out by the landlord of the building who looks to fit out the space to a standard that presents the tenant with a space to develop in the way that best represents them and meets their business needs. Category A is followed by a Category B (Cat B) fit out which is carried out by an interior fit out contractor on behalf of the tenant and which readies the office space for tenant occupation.

Category A Fit Out

As briefly described above a Cat A fit out is the fit out carried out by the landlord. Just as with shell and core there is no standard definition for a Category A fit out and there can be some cross-over between Cat A and Cat B depending on the developer/landlord.

In general terms a Cat A fit out will include:

In essence, creating a “blank canvas”, from which a tenant can add their mark and brand.

Category B Fit Out

The final step in the fit out process is the Cat B fit out. Cat B is where all of the bespoke, custom design elements of the office fit out (or refurbishment) are introduced and the “blank canvas” can come to life. In Cat B the building space is fully designed and laid out to make the space liveable, comfortable and ready for a company to move in. As mentioned previously it’s also the chance for a business to put their stamp on the space, to reflect their brand identity and to make the space completely theirs in terms of their business needs. Again what is included in a Cat B fit out will depend on the developer/landlord.

A Cat B fit out can comprise:

  • partitioning to develop the space into individual offices, meeting and conference rooms, breakout areas, kitchen and tea points and reception area
  • staircase finishes including carpets
  • flooring
  • specialist lighting
  • IT, audio visual equipment and data cabling
  • decor including specialist finishes, branding and signage
  • office furniture including storage.

Turnkey Interior Fit Out Developments

In some cases a landlord may carry out a full turnkey interior fit out without involving a tenant. In these situations the landlord of the building is providing the tenant(s) with a space that is already fully fitted out and ready to be moved into with everything that a tenant requires to create a fully functioning office from scratch. A turnkey office development provides a solution for many businesses wanting to move in and get up and running without any delay.

There is also the possibility that a landlord may make the decision to carry out a Cat A fit out on the majority of a building but where there are shared areas e.g. in the case of kitchen and tea points, break out areas and washrooms the landlord may also choose to complete the Cat B fit out work.

Where Does An Interior Fit Out Contractor Come In?

An interior fit out contractor can provide interior fit out services at Cat A and Cat B stages to both landlord and tenants.

It’s important to find the right interior fit out contractor to work with you. You need someone who’ll be able to advise, collaborate, bring quality ideas to the table and help manage every aspect of the project.

In the case of a landlord you’ll want to work with an interior fit out contractor that can bring their experience to bear in preparing your property for the current market. Your interior fit out contractor will need to understand what the current office design trends are, what tenants are looking for in terms of business premises and what will get the best ROI for the space available within your building.

In the case of a tenant a good fit out contractor will take the time to understand your business and company culture, your business needs and processes and short, medium and long terms goals and plans. Without this your interior fit out is likely to be less successful.

In both cases an interior fit out contractor should be looking to create a tailor made space that will work efficiently and effectively, be stylish and practical and which will help, not hinder, tenants to bring their company’s unique character to life within their office space.

In summary an interior fit out contractor should:

  • understand what is required
  • take into account your current workforce and the future growth of your business
  • know current planning laws and be able to advise on what you need to do
  • have the experience to put your and their ideas into practice
  • produce a comprehensive plan including project delivery and work schedule to support your fit out that will result in a smooth work flow
  • produce office designs and visualisations through 2D and 3D renders
  • have a great team who can see the project through from inception to completion.
  • keep to timelines and budget.

The outcome of your interior fit-out should be a space that meets all of your needs and more and will satisfy your business requirements for now and into the foreseeable future.

Interior Fit Out Experience

JBH Refurbishments has over 25 years of experience as an interior fit out contractor providing Cat and Cat B fit outs for landlords and tenants, businesses, warehouse conversions and shared workspaces across London, Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

As part of our interior fit out services we:

  • work closely with landlords to ensure the properties are ready for the marketplace
  • support new tenants design requirements
  • provide end-of-lease dilapidations to return a commercial property to its original state when a tenant decides to leave.

Interior Fit Out Projects

With our wealth of knowledge and expertise we have completed numerous fit out projects across various business sectors. Here a few of the many examples from our interior fit out projects section:

Kent Warehouse Conversion and Office Fit-Out – a three-storey Kent warehouse conversion and office fit-out including and open plan office on each level, a reception, two partitioned offices for management, a large kitchen, meeting room and washroom facilities.

MC Truck and Bus Aylesford – Multiple Site Office Refurbishments Kent – complete office refurbishment, new reception with a contemporary design and curved reception desk and two redesigned washrooms.

Office Refurbishment London Marks Premier Decorations’ 30th Anniversary – new layout, full decoration, lighting, flooring to give the property a new lease of life in its 30th year.

Warehouse Office Fit-Out for Music Distribution Centre – installed mezzanine flooring and office fit-outs in each of the units.

Looking For A Cat A or Cat B Fit out Contractor?

If you’re looking for a Cat A and B fit out contractor, for businesses, schools, warehouse conversions and shared workspaces then look no further. JBH Refurbishments can take care of all of your in Surrey and Sussex, Kent, London interior fit out needs whether you’re a landlord or tenant. Take advantage of JBH Refurbishments 25+ years of expertise by contacting us via our contact form or calling us on 0333 207 0339.

Know How

Overcoming Office Design Challenges Across Kent and London

Kent and London office space need office design to get the most out of the available space and balance business objectives and staff needs.

London Office Refurbishments Continue To Power The London Office Market

The Deloitte Summer 2024 Edition of the London Office Crane Survey finds developers are turning to refurbishments over new builds.